Walking up the side of a mountain when you are injured and mourning your fallen friend is not something I would recommend. It’s even less amusing in the snow. They there I was, putting one boot in front of the other.
The dwarves had at least built a fine path, which wasn’t too steep. The narrow corniche curved along the rocky face and then twelve of us were mostly silent as we concentrated on not tumbling to our deaths. There had been enough death in the battle we were escaping.
Lorim, the only dwarf in our group passed the others and walked beside me. I nodded to him and he nodded back. He passed me a waterskin.
“What will we find inside the mountain?” I asked and he sighed deeply.
“This is not my mountain. I’m from the north. Greyhelm is old, but this mountain home, Farpass, is far older. I have only read stories, but it is said they hallowed out most of the mountain. They built towers and castles and keeps right into the walls with one huge structure in the center that has a thousand rooms in it. That’s where the great feast halls are and the court of the king. Glorhin, the Wise, they call him. A good king.”
I nodded. I had heard about some of what he spoke of, but not a single keep with a thousand rooms. It’s seemed ridiculous. Still, the dwarves were mighty builders.
Halfway up the mountainside, after walking for more than six hours, we came to a vast landing. There was a wide double door there, perhaps thirty feet high and half as wide. The bottoms of the doors were covered in many feet of snow.
We gathered in front of the door and Lorim took his great hammer out and went to a huge flattened boulder to the side of the door that had many hammer marks in it.
He brought his great hammer down on the rock three times. The dull gongs of each hammer fall rung into the distance. After a few minutes, a small window in the door opened and a bearded dwarven face looked out.
“Halt, travelers. What wish you of the mightly mountain kingdom of Farpass?” Sounded a somewhat uninterested baritone voice.
Lorim walked forward. “Hail, cousins. I am Lorim of Greyhelm. We are a band of warriors who have battled the oncoming goblin hoards from the south. We seek refuge and to speak to your wise king.”
The guard’s large gray eyebrows rose. “Well, the door is frozen shut. So you can’t. We can throw you out some bread if you like. You can come back in the spring.”
Our party looked at each other. “Frozen?” we asked each other. Lorim spoke. “Surely we can dig the slow out of the way. We have some shovels-” he started, but the guard laughed.
“These doors are four thousand years old. Water creeps down the mountain in the autumn and in the winter, the doors are frozen solid and can be moved by no dwarf or man or even elf,” he said, sounding as if he had said the words a hundred times.
I sighed deeply. My fingers touched the stitches in my belly and I winced. I took off my pack and my fur cloak and stood next to Lorim. “Hello, I am Fayn of the Silver Isles. If you stand back, I can open the doors. If you kindly unlock them.”
The dwarf laughed and called to another guard behind him. They spoke in their rough-sounding language and laughed some more. Lorim frowned at me.
“Well, young elf, I’ll tell you what. We will unbolt the mighty Far Gate and stand back and if you can open it, you can sleep in my bed this evening, with my wife! And I will sleep on the cold stone ground. And you can have my dinner as well!”
I smiled and rolled up my sleeves. “Stand far back, dwarven lords,” I warned.
I gray moon was half full. The crimson moon was a silver. The black moon was invisible that day. The math was complicated, but my memory was very sharp. I thought of the position of the stars and the sun and tried to compensate for how high up we were. I walked forward and put my hands on the great Far Gate.
It was not a slow-building heat, but a low pop, like when a fire catches fuel suddenly. The snow that piled high on the sides of the mountain began to fall quickly. There were deep cracking sounds like an old wooden house settling. The vast steel frames of the door steamed and sizzles and seemed to glow red, just a little.
I passed out then, though I knew my spell had worked. The energy was great, though. When I awake I was being carried in a litter of some sort. I looked up and saw a thousand windows in a vast pyramid that rose up in the largest cave I have ever seen. Larger than I could even imagine. And all around the ceiling of the cave were balls of light, making it as bright as day.
And to my sides, I saw the glow of smiles, pride in the eyes of my fellow warriors. We ate well that night in the dwarven kingdom.